There’s new, er, old drama in Middle-earth. Lord of the Rings fans have been dissecting intel about Amazon Prime’s highly-anticipated LOTR prequel series since its announcement in 2017, hunting for social media clues as to which characters will be making an appearance and what exactly the series will be about.
In the 20 years since the premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first LOTR film installment based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famed novels, two major Middle-earth movie trilogies have been completed. And finally, another Tolkien adaptation is close to being released. This time, it’s a series set millennia before the works fans know and love.
Officially titled The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the Amazon Studios production is headed by JD Payne and Patrick McKay, who both serve as showrunners and executive producers. Directors J.A. Bayona (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom), Wayne Che Yip (The Wheel of Time), and Charlotte Brändström (The Witcher) helm multiple episodes each. The show was created in cooperation with Tolkien Estate and Trust with a Tolkien scholar consulted, so expect it to be true to the late author’s vision of Middle-earth.
Here’s everything to know about Amazon Prime’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power series, including the Season 1 release date, which beloved characters will make comebacks, and what famed evils await Middle-earth.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Series Trailer & Release Date
Like many projects initially scheduled for a 2021 release, The Rings of Power’s launch was delayed. Finally, on Aug. 2, the official LOTR Twitter account locked in a date for fans to look forward to, writing, “On September 2, 2022, a new journey begins.” The post was accompanied by the first official teaser photo of a character whose back is turned to the audience facing a picturesque white kingdom. Goosebumps.
The following day, the account announced the end of Season 1’s production in New Zealand. “That’s a wrap!” the tweet read. “Thank you to our amazing cast and crew and to New Zealand for being the incredible place we have been privileged to call home as we bring the Second Age and Middle-earth to life.”
On Jan. 19, Amazon Studios released a teaser clip to reveal the series’ official title, The Rings of Power, spelling it out through CGI renderings of engraved silver metal and redwood. Viewers also catch a glimpse of the characters’ world, from Mount Doom’s active lava to the foggy Misty Mountains.
In the clip, a female voice is heard reciting a poem written by Tolkien, aka The Lord of the Rings’ memorable introduction: “Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky. Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone. Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die. One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne. In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.”
On Thursday, Feb. 3, the official Twitter account released a series of character teaser photos marked with the series title, release date, and streaming platform — all 23 of them close-ups of torsos with mostly hands wrapped around various items. Some photos feature axes (we’re guessing they’re meant to be dwarves) and some arrows (elves, likely). Some hands grasp hilts of swords and clasp scrolls while others carry produce, like nuts, berries, and an apple (it’s unclear what these symbolize, but maybe they’re hobbits). One of the posters features someone dressed in all black with spiky hand armor, so it’s likely they’re the villain. Whether the objects they hold represent their rank or kingdom or are somehow crucial to the plot remains to be seen.
Of course, the posters sent fans into a frenzy trying to identify which character is which. There are only 20 rings made in the Tolkien universe, after all, and 23 teaser photos, so even if fans account for all of the ring owners, there are still other characters to place. There’s nothing definitive to glean from the photos at the moment, but the most devoted fans will surely try to decode the posters as the premiere approaches.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Series Plot
The prequel will feature new storylines preceding both The Hobbit and LOTR. In an interview with Deadline, Bayona established when the series is set, saying, “I can’t wait to take audiences around the world to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never before seen story.”
Fans know that the Second Age was thousands of years before the reign of Aragorn and the gang (also known as the Third Age). It was the time when all rings — not just Sauron’s One Ring — were still active. Is it likely that fans will get a glimpse of the famed glory days of Middle-earth, with the different species thriving thanks to their magical gilded baubles? Probably. Is it also likely that Sauron, too, will be at his infernal prime in The Rings of Power? Also, yes.
According to Amazon’s press materials, The Rings of Power takes viewers “back to an era in which great powers were forged, kingdoms rose to glory and fell to ruin, unlikely heroes were tested,” and “the greatest villain that ever flowed from Tolkien’s pen threatened to cover all the world in darkness.”
Beginning “in a time of relative peace,” the series follows new and familiar characters “as they confront the long-feared re-emergence of evil,” aka Sauron. The materials also promise to showcase the “darkest depths of the Misty Mountains,” the “majestic forests of the elf-capital of Lindon,” and the “breathtaking island kingdom of Númenor,” so fans will finally get to see kingdoms mentioned in reverential tones in the original Peter Jackson-directed trilogies.
According to Tolkien mythology, the Second Age was also known as “The Age of Númenor.” By Aragorn’s time, Númenor was a mere memory — a kingdom Sauron wiped out. In May 2019, the show’s official Twitter account even teased a map of Middle-earth featuring Númenor, so it’s possible The Rings of Power will tackle the island’s history.
If you’ll also recall, Aragorn is the descendant of Isildur, the original King of Gondor who succumbed to the ring’s power. He was born in Númenor, so hopefully fans get to see Aragorn’s kin, as well as his downfall.
It may sound like a lot of plot for just one season, but with a budget of $1 billion and a second season already greenlit, there’s a lot of story wiggle room. Plus, the show’s writers include creatives behind Breaking Bad (Gennifer Hutchison) and Game of Thrones (Bryan Cogman), among others, so a story of epic proportions is expected.
“This is a title that we imagine could live on the spine of a book next to J.R.R. Tolkien’s other classics,” J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay, the series’ showrunners, told Amazon in a Jan. 19 press release, per Inverse. “The Rings of Power unites all the major stories of Middle-earth’s Second Age: The forging of the rings, the rise of the Dark Lord Sauron, the epic tale of Númenor, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.”
Furthermore, Payne and McKay said so far in the franchise, viewers have only seen Sauron’s ring forged — which is about to change. “Before there was one, there were many... and we’re excited to share the epic story of them all.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Series Cast
While fans have grown attached to the many heroes of LOTR, particularly Aragorn, Legolas, and the rest of the attractive fellows, it’s time to fall in love with a lot of new faces in The Rings of Power — 39, to be exact, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Australian actor Markella Kavenagh (My First Summer) was the first to be cast in the prequel series as a woman — possibly an elf — named Tyra. (Screen Rant reported, however, that her name could be an alias to fend off spoilers.)
Another GoT alum, Joseph Mawle, was cast as Oren, the show’s central villain. It’s unclear how he’s connected to Sauron, who seems to reign as the bigger Middle-earth threat, but he’s likely Sauron’s agent. An Observer report revealed more about these main characters’ traits. Oren is said to “evoke a deep sense of pathos built around a wounded and fallen nobility”; Beldor is described as “young,” “optimistic,” “intelligent,” and “[politically] savvy”; while Tyra is supposed to be a teenager with “strength and maturity beyond her years.”
Finally, apart from Morfydd Clark (His Dark Materials), whom Variety reported in December 2019 to be playing a young Lady Galadriel (famously played by Cate Blanchett in the original LOTR and Hobbit trilogies), most of the cast members’ roles remain under wraps.
Rounding out the rest of the Middle-earth characters are Ema Horvath (Like.Share.Follow.), who’ll be a series regular, Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Spartacus, Shooter), Owain Arthur (The One and Only Ivan), Maxim Baldry (Hollyoaks), Lenny Henry (The Lenny Henry Show), Nazanin Boniadi (How I Met Your Mother), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Berlin Station), Tom Budge (The Pacific), and Benjamin Walker (Jessica Jones).
Last July, THR reported even more entrants for the first season, including Charles Edwards (The Crown), Will Fletcher (The Road Dance), and Amelie Child-Villiers (Censor). Beau Cassidy, a newcomer, will also be part of the cast, joining another young actor, Tyroe Muhafidin.
Our countdown continues.
This post will be updated with additional plot, trailer, and cast details as more information on The Lord of the Rings series becomes available.
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